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The Secret Agent

Score: 86%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Acorn Media
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 178 Mins.
Genre: Thriller/Drama/Mini-series
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH

Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent stars Toby Jones as Anton Verloc, a mind-mannered man who runs a seedy sex shop in Soho during the Victorian era. He lives behind the shop with his wife Winnie (Vicky McClure, Line of Duty), her mother Jessie (Marie Critchley, The Casual Vacancy), and Winnie's mentally-challenged younger brother, Stevie (Charlie Hamblett), whom she adores. But Verloc is more than meets the eye...

In the evenings, he holds meetings for a local group of anarchists and the group make plans, but never really do anything. Some of the members include a volatile man called "The Professor" (Ian Hart); charming Ossipon (Raphael Acloque), who has eyes for Winnie; and Michaelis (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), recently released from prison. What the other members of the group don't know is that Verloc is a spy working for the Russian government, and his handler, Vladimir (David Dawson), wants the group to move forward and do something that will spur the English government into harsh recourse on the anarchists. He threatens Verloc, giving him a month to get the plan in motion and expects him (or the group) to bomb the Greenwich Observatory, and if he doesn't, his name will be released as a spy and he'll be good as dead.

Naturally, Verloc springs into action, trying to drum up support for his plan and when Michaelis, who recently came under the patronage of the wealthy and influential Lady Blackwood, retreats to a cottage in Kent to write his memoirs, Verloc decides to conceal his bombing plans with a bonding trip with Stevie to Kent (not far from the Greenwich Observatory), to take him to the countryside so he could have some new experiences and they could grow closer. Winnie and her mother are thrilled, and even though Winnie's mother recently moved out of the house, wanting to lighten Verloc's load, Winnie sees the trip as a good sign of future family closeness. She couldn't be more wrong.

Inspector Heat (Stephen Graham, Boardwalk Empire) is a man who watches Verloc with a close eye. He works for AC Stone (Tom Goodman-Hill, HUMANS) and they are both getting pressure from the higher-ups about terrorism and anarchists, especially when The Professor pulls a stunt that could have very well killed many people. When The Professor is taken into custody, Heat learns that not only has The Professor made another bomb, but someone will be using it soon. Now if only he can figure out who.

Naturally, things go horribly awry with Verloc's plan and the fallout from the incident, both literally and figuratively, is hideous. Verloc is terrified for his life, but worse than anything will be having to own up to Winnie for what he has done. The ramifications of his foolishly playing the fence as a part-time spy all of these years will come crashing down on his head violently before everything is said and done. There are no happy endings for anyone here.

While there are no special features in The Secret Agent, it's still a very good production. It's not something you'll want to pop in for the family at holiday gatherings, as the storyline is rather grim, but it is well-acted, well-written and intense, especially towards the end. Toby Jones is such a marvelous actor, playing anything from a sweet powderpuff of a man in Detectorists, to playing a rather skeezy Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl, and then there's Verloc, a combination of the two - minus the sweet part. Vicky McClure definitely breaks out of her comfort zone from Line of Duty and is incredibly believable in her role, and the rest of the cast is terrific as well. If you are interested in a spy thriller from the Victorian era, check out The Secret Agent.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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